Bombs, Brakes, and Bullets: Range Time with Lancer Systems
Tom McHale 10.02.15
Quick, which company does all of the following?
- Makes composite 2,000-pound-bomb fins for the Israeli military.
- Designs and manufactures harsh-environment, fiber-optic camera solutions to withstand massive heat and pressure. If Brendan Fraser had this gear before his Journey to the Center of the Earth, we all could have been spared the pain of a rotten adventure movie.
- Designs and manufactures components for heavy-use rifles like magazines, stocks, and handguards.
- Makes some of the coolest-looking AR-15- and AR-10-type rifles you can find.
I’m talking about Lancer Systems. Why the unusal product line diversity? Company President Bill Meiklejohn describes Lancer Systems as an engineering company that thrives on figuring out high-tech solutions for problems, regardless of the market segment (within reason, of course).
I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with the Lancer team at an event held at the Virginia International Raceway (and shooting facility) and got plenty of hands-on time with many of Lancer’s products. While they didn’t let me drop one of the 2,000-pound bombs with their composite fins (I asked) they did let me try to destroy some of their Advanced Warfighter magazines, shoot some of their rifles, and play with all sorts of other interesting toys.
Virginia International Raceway for a shooting event? Why, yes. The VIR is like summer camp for big kids. The 1,300 acres of pure fun include a 3.27-mile hilly and winding track, skid pads, trap and skeet ranges, various rifle and pistol ranges, and a world-famous Skip Barber racing school. Throughout our stay, I never could figure out what made more joyful noise, squealing tires and screaming engines or thousands of 5.56mm and .308 Winchester rounds going downrange.
Rifle accessories: Adaptive Magwell and Viper muzzle brake
We started off day one with a little friendly shoot, move, and reload competition. Using standard AR-15 rifles, each shooter started from a seated position inside a truck. On the buzzer, the shooter loaded the first of five magazines, each stocked with six rounds. After exiting the truck, loading a magazine, and hitting three different targets with two shots each, you drop the empty magazine and reload a new one. Six more shots and you repeat the process. By the end of the course, you’ll have loaded five magazines and engaged 15 targets using 30 rounds of ammo. My first run at the course was clocked at 44 seconds from the buzzer to the last shot fired.
After each of us ran the course, we installed the Lancer Adaptive Magwell on our rifle. Think of this as a giant “feed me” mouth that guides the magazine into place. When you’re in a hurry, can can’t help but insert the magazine properly without a a whole lot of careful alignment between magazine and well. Installation was performed in less than 30 seconds using only a 5.56mm cartridge to press pins into place. We then ran the course again. I could tell the difference in ease and speed of magazine changes while running and gunning, but that difference became evident when I saw my new time of 33 seconds. That’s almost a 30 percent reduction.
We also got some trigger time with L30 .308 rifles equipped with the company’s Viper muzzle brakes. These muzzle brakes look like an Imperial I-class Star Destroyer that flew right into the muzzle of your rifle. The unusual triangular-shaped brake is not legal for most 3-gun competition, but for most anything else, it’s amazingly effective. That’s largely because the brake is tunable using a series of adjustable gas jets. You can tweak performance to your preferred load and performance desired. Neat idea.
Is magazine abuse legal? If not, keep this next part just between us.
We did some condensed versions of military-standard magazine drop tests using Lancer L5 Advanced Warfighter (L5AWM) 5.56mm magazines, Magpul PMAGs, and standard metal GI magazines. Without going into all the gory details, we froze loaded magazines of all three types using dry ice, then proceeded with a series of drop tests. Stopping occasionally to refreeze the mags, we dropped then onto concrete so they would impact on the corners, top, bottom, and both sides.
By the end of the drop tests, the PMAG was unusable, as the feed lips broke off. The mil-spec mag had dents and dings but appeared usable, so we loaded it into a full-auto rifle and let loose. After about seven or eight rounds, the gun stopped working, because the magazine body was dented and locked the follower in place about mid way up the magazine. The L5AWM, with its hybrid construction of metal up top and see-through polymer on the body, stayed together—and all 30 rounds fired without a hiccup.
Just for fun, we even dropped full L5AWMs from a 60-foot-tall shooting tower onto concrete. While some of the rounds flew out, the magazines survived in functional condition. They didn’t look pristine anymore, but they remained intact.
Pretty impressive stuff.
The next phase of product testing was serious work and we had no fun whatsoever unloading 30-round magazines through fully automatic, suppressed rifles with aluminum handguards and Lancer carbon-fiber handguards. The idea was to get a feel of the heat buildup difference between the metal and carbon grip surfaces.
Adding the suppressor helped make sure things heated up really quickly. After one magazine dump, the metal handguard rifles were unpleasantly hot to to the touch. The carbon fiber models not so much.
Used in the right applications, carbon fiber can really make a difference. It’s slow to dissipate heat that it does collect, but on the other hand, it’s also slow to conduct heat. In this case, the inside of the handguard got hot through the firing sequence, but that heat never really made its way to the surface where your hands are. It’s also amazingly light. I’m already wondering why I don’t have a carbon-fiber handguard on my go-to AR rifle.
Last but not least, we got in some good trigger time on two different families of Lancer rifles, the L15 5.56mm and L30 .308 families. The company offers various configurations of each with a range of stock, barrel and handguard options. Most of the models we shot were equipped with the company’s carbon-fiber handguards and stocks. They’re light and handy, but will shoot. One of our drills was pinging steel plates from that same 60-foot-tall shooting tower at distances of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. most shooters easily made first-round hits, at speed, from a prone position.
All in all, it was a grueling couple of days spent shooting, playing, tinkering, and shooting some more. It’s okay, though—I’m a giver, so I do these things without complaint. After all, it’s not just an adventure, it’s a job!
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.